Getting a head start on careers

First students set to graduate from UNT’s new Professional Selling Program

DENTON (UNT), Texas — As he prepared for graduation, University of North Texas College of Business student Michael Paddack wanted to open as many career doors as possible. He enrolled in the university’s new educational program for undergraduate students interested in business-to-business sales careers. And now he credits the rigor of that program for helping him land a full-time position as a key account representative at ProBuild, a leading supplier of building materials.

"This has been one of the best experiences in aiding my professional career," Paddack said of the training program. "You are not just thrown to the wolves, and you are a step ahead of your colleagues."

Paddack is part of the first group of graduates from the UNT College of Business' new Professional Selling Program — a selective program that works with industry partners to give students the experience they need to soar in a business-to-business sales career. Eight students will graduate from the program this December. Many have been offered full-time jobs in sales, while some are pursuing graduate school.

Students in the Professional Selling Program participate in required internships in which they learn tricks of the trade from seasoned sales professionals. They complete 11 marketing courses — with six of those focusing on business-to-business sales. In class, they tweak and fine-tune their sales pitches in practices with Jeffrey Lewin, associate professor of marketing. A program such as this — with advanced undergraduate training in professional selling — is offered at only a handful of universities across the country, program organizers said.       

"Our program is more extensive — in terms of the number of courses and what we teach within those courses — than anything else in the DFW area," said Lewin, who teaches the program’s courses along with Jeffrey Sager, professor of marketing, and Joy Houser, lecturer of marketing. "By being exposed to specific skills and knowledge in the classroom, they are well along the path of training that they would normally get post-graduation. They should move through training more quickly and be in a position to be more productive for the employer probably 90 to 100 days sooner than someone without the training."

Not only are students prepared to excel, but they are prepared to know what to expect in a demanding career, faculty members said. 

"Turnover in the sales industry is very high compared to other industries, and we feel that by giving students a realistic view of the pros and cons of that career, they will be less apt to turn over or abandon the role in those early months while they are learning the way," Lewin said.

The Professional Selling Program at UNT started in Spring 2014 with 25 students and has since grown to 48 students. Students can pursue a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a major in marketing and a concentration in professional selling, and students with majors outside of business are welcomed as a minor in professional selling. But everyone in the program goes through an interview and assessment process to be selected.

"To really make it through our program, you've got to be committed," Lewin said. "The other goal is to really assess whether this is a good career fit for the individual student. If not, we’re doing the students a disservice, and we’re doing our industry partners a disservice. We’re really trying to select students who will have a reasonably high probability of success in this career area."

UNT students who served as interns at ProBuild this year learned about products and services, talked with top sales professionals who served as mentors and visited job sites to check on products and materials. Richard Bridges, a North Texas area sales manager for ProBuild, said his company frequently visits college career fairs at universities in the region — but the UNT program is different from others, he said.

"What really got me excited about it is how Jeff Lewin screened his applicants into the program," Bridges said. "He didn't take just anybody, but he took people who were really serious about the selling industry. This is a program with young people excited about the sales industry and sales practices."

Students in the program have the experience to make themselves more attractive in a competitive job market, and companies gain knowledgeable new employees primed for successful careers.

"We had a huge need in developing talent in sales people," said Paul "MO" Moline, Fort Worth general manager of logistics company C.H. Robinson, which had several UNT student interns this year. "The timing couldn’t have been better."

At C.H. Robinson, each UNT student intern was paired with a senior executive as a mentor. Students learned about introductory calls, the discovery process, lead generation tactics and more.

"Our interns don’t sit in a corner and file papers," Moline said. "They get actively involved, whether they are listening to conversations that are discovery in nature or holding some of these calls."

Justin Dmytriw, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in marketing in May, has already secured a full-time job. Dmytriw will begin work as a full-time sales executive with C.H. Robinson in January after serving as an intern at the company. In class, students learned about pay structures, so Dmytriw knew what to expect when his job offer letter arrived. And in his internship, he got valuable experience in sales.

"It wasn’t like I was getting coffee. I was doing sales executive work, doing a lot of prospecting and trying to find clients," said Dmytriw, of Fort Worth, who pitched prospective clients over the phone and went to client meetings with his mentor during his internship. "This Professional Selling Program gave me more in-depth knowledge of what happens in the real world so I can be more prepared. It's a class that I am going to use every day of my life."


About UNT’s College of Business

With more than 5,500 students, UNT's College of Business is one of the largest business schools in the nation and has been continuously accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International since 1961.

With 105 full-time faculty members, the college offers 16 undergraduate degrees, 22 master's degrees, seven doctoral programs and 17 certificate programs. Three centers and institutes in the College of Business create synergy among scholarship, research and teaching. Classes take place in the 180,000-square-foot Business Leadership Building, which opened in 2011.

Students enhance their learning experience through student organizations, study abroad programs, internships and the Professional Leadership Program to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today's technological and global business environment. 

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